Circuit of Wales latest
The dream of a new home for the British Grand Prix in South Wales appears to be dead in the water almost six years after the Circuit of Wales was first proposed. The Welsh Government turned down the project’s third funding proposal and withdrew their support for the project last week - a development that looks set to bring the ambitious plan to an end.
The latest proposal asked for 50% of the project’s £425 million total cost to be underwritten by the regional government, which essentially insured the project in case it ran at a loss for the next 35 years. Unlike the previous two requests the latest was examined by an independent company and it was their report that prompted the regional government’s decision.
Throwing doubt on claims that the circuit would generate 750,000 annual visitors and 6000 jobs for the region, the auditors found that the more realistic job figure was instead closer to only 100. With that information in hand, Ken Skates AM said that he had no choice but to withdraw his department’s support for it.
However, organising body Heads of the Valley Development Company, under chief executive Martin Whitaker, have disputed that the project is over, telling MCN that despite the Minister’s withdrawal of support it does not mean the end of the Circuit of Wales.
“The issue last Tuesday [27 June] was that they came up with some advice from their Treasury people that the whole balance of their guarantee would be on their balance sheet. We’ve had a meeting with them since to try to understand what happened, because they didn’t tell us prior to their meeting on Tuesday about this information.
“We are confident, from the discussions that we’ve had with them last week, that we can sit down and talk with them and identify how we can move things forward given the information we now have. Our investors are still in place. The government are looking to us to come back to them this week, sit down around the table with us and hammer it out.”
When questioned about the claims made by the minister that they would have no further involvement in the project, Whitaker replied: “We had a meeting with the officials on Friday. The fact of the matter is, the Welsh Government have always kept their doors open - and a lot of things were said on Tuesday and statements made from both sides. I don’t want to get into a ‘we said, he said’ because Ken Skates has made it very clear that he’s still prepared to sit down and talk to us.”
Whitaker’s take on the situation seems to contradict the statements made by Skates earlier in the week, though, with the economic secretary saying that the financial risk that it would leave the regional government open to means that his department could not continue to support it.
A slow start
Originally launched in 2011 to be under construction by 2012, the project has suffered delay after delay with building work never actually started – other than a road to the industrial estate. However, Heads of the Valleys Development Company, the organisers behind the COW project, were awarded the contract to host the British Grand Prix in 2014 with a five-year deal (and an option to extend it for a further five years).
With construction repeatedly delayed, they were forced to do a deal with Donington and then Silverstone to host the British GP. The HOTV are also scheduled to host this year’s race in only eight weeks’ time.
‘Auditors found 100 jobs would be created, not the 6000 claimed’